It snowed. A steady stream of soggy, wet chunks of snow collecting in a splattered mess along the curve of the porthole. MacLeod looked out, watching the blue-cold Paris, shrouded, fogged, momentarily distant. In a few minutes whatever sun still clung to the day would disappear and he wouldn't be able to see much beyond a faint glow from the streetlights.
"Expecting someone?" asked Methos. "My company not good enough, I suppose."
MacLeod flashed an irritated smile. "Exactly. Can you please leave?" Methos had been hanging around all day and now, belly full from dinner and nursing a bottle of Bordeaux red, didn't look like he was leaving any time soon.
Methos sank further into the couch, as if to say "yes, I'll get right on it." MacLeod smirked, but he stayed looking out the window. Cold seemed to radiate from the hull of the barge.
He'd felt edgy all day. They had dinner, just the three of them; he'd cooked, although Methos had made the salad, which was remarkably good. Joe begged off early, something about a Watcher's conference starting at seven the next morning, and MacLeod really hadn't wanted to know more, had merely accepted a hug and a cheery wave good-bye.
He dropped next to Methos onto the couch, picking up his own glass of wine.
"What is it, Mac?"
MacLeod shook his head. "Nothing." He couldn't stop thinking of Tessa. Those years with her seemed so far away, a dream, another MacLeod. She did that, came back to him, for a day. He avoided Methos' too-knowing gaze.
He wondered where Richie was. MacLeod missed him, a raw ache. Months since that terrible day in Seacouver, in the dojo. He could still feel the weight of the katana held at Richie's neck, could still feel the absolute black that had wrapped itself around him and hadn't let go until Methos had come.
MacLeod struggled back from the strange loneliness he felt. "Hey, I have a present for you," he said. He'd debated about this, but in the end he knew he would give it to Methos, although it might not go over well.
"For me?" Methos creased his forehead, moving on the couch so that they faced one another, each of them backed against an arm, long legs folded, knees touching. "I think the gift exchange on birthdays goes the other direction. Speaking of which, my present to you should be here any minute."
"If you would tell me when your birthday was, I'd wait till then. And what do you mean, 'be here any minute'? What are you planning?"
"Well, appearing, maybe. Or--" the telephone rang. Methos snapped his fingers and pointed to the phone. "Bingo. I must say I have excellent timing." Methos beamed, buffing his fingernails.
Macleod looked at Methos funny, answering the phone with trepidation. "Hello?"
MacLeod felt blood drain away from his face and pool into a hot puddle at the pit of his stomach. "Richie?" he asked, softly.
"Yeah. Hey, I can't talk for long. I just -- How are you?"
His eyes stung, and he knew he wasn't breathing. He moved to the window again; the snow had tapered off and he could see the line of the quay. He wanted to say so much, but he knew he couldn't. "I'm okay. You?"
"Not bad. I've been traveling around, mostly. You know."
"Yeah, I know. It's good to hear your voice, Rich." MacLeod breathed through a memory of a birthday from long ago, just him and Tessa, and Richie.
Long pause on the other end. "Yeah. I gotta go."
"Sure. Thanks. For calling."
"Happy Birthday, Mac." The line went dead.
MacLeod held the receiver for long moments; hand over his eyes, his throat hurting. Eventually he turned and found Methos respectfully inspecting the bookshelf. MacLeod had no idea how Methos could have possibly known, how he had managed to find Richie, let alone get him to call. His throat was too swollen to even think of asking.
He put the phone back and then went to his desk, taking out a square, flat, gift-wrapped package. "Here," he said. "I, uh, found this and had it framed for you."
Methos looked up and took the package, ripping the paper away. Inside was a solid, pewter frame holding a picture of Methos and Alexa, his arm around her, both smiling. It was taken in Seacouver.
MacLeod started to say something, but stopped. Methos didn't move, didn't look up or lower his hands, only kept staring at the frame and the picture. Finally, MacLeod started to turn away.
"Thanks," said Methos. "I'd forgotten about this picture." Methos put the frame back in its box, but left the top off so the happy couple in the picture could still look out.
MacLeod nodded. "Joe gave it to me."
Methos smiled, leaving the box on the bookshelf, carefully. "Yes, he's sneaky that way."
MacLeod laughed. They went back to the couch and MacLeod poured the rest of the wine evenly into their glasses. They clinked in a silent toast.
"Mac," said Methos, calling MacLeod's attention. Bright eyes, moist and far away.
MacLeod held out his hand. Methos took it and squeezed, holding tight before dropping.
Later, when the night grew older, they both fell asleep, the lights dimmed, staying cramped on the couch, with their legs bent and knees still touching.